We’re collecting patterns. It is our way of getting to know our new home in West Sussex. There’s the great flyover at Shoreham that shoots over the Adur Valley, the gothic turrets of Lancing College across the river and the endless variety of flint walls.
My favourite patterns so far are the medieval carvings in our local church in Steyning: these simple patterns of gently folded stone effortlessly wrap themselves around this ancient building, moving me – like people for centuries before – to contemplation, awe and wonder.
These carvings capture all that is true about the best patterns and pattern-making. Through a simple repetition of form, they manage to create a sense of life and serenity in which we have space to think and dream.
Patterns can bring us together and distill what is most precious to us. They can help us to make sense of our world and enhance our sense of being in it.
Looking at these carvings makes me think: where can we find similar patterns today? And how can we find more of ways of creating a shared identity for our common life, especially locally.
Traditional communities were held together by shared symbols and codes, and patterns were a vital part of these. It may be that we have lost this ability to recognise what holds us together with each other via patterns – the patterns we live with have become ubiquitous, corporate and empty.
But I don’t think we have. We should be able to re-discover a language of local patterns which can bring them alive again.
If we are all natural pattern-makers, as I believe, then wherever we are at work and play, there will be patterns. But I’m worried that our ability to create the kinds of patterns and decoration that makes space for awe and wonder is diminishing as we succumb to the overwhelming power of mass-produced pattern – in the street, on the internet. Too much of the pattern around us is homogenizing and, instead of life-enhancing, it’s exhausting.
But great human-scale pattern made with love is still out there – we just need to look more closely to discover it.
We’re collecting examples of patterns we love at Patternmakers on Instagram – have a look and let us know what you think. Most especially send us the patterns that mean most to you to firstname.lastname@example.org